Over the coming weekend 2,537 of the best show dogs in America—including most of those pictured in SI's color foldout opposite—will invade New York City with their owners and handlers in preparation for the nation's No. 1 canine event, the Westminster Kennel Club show in Madison Square Garden (Feb. 14, 15).
Every one of them a blue ribbon winner (except the puppies), the dogs will come from nearly every state in the Union, as well as Canada and Venezuela, to compete for the greatest single honor in the U.S. dog world—a win at Westminster. The Westminster event is the biggest indoor show of the winter, the climax of the canine year and the beginning of a new season. It is also the oldest consecutive show in the country, having been staged without a break since 1877.
This is a tribute not only to the Westminster but to the sport of showing dogs in general—one which large numbers of people pursue with considerable passion for a variety of reasons. To some it is a sport, to others a hobby; still others do it because they like dogs or simply because they like money, of which sizable amounts are involved. But whether it is a professional handler from the West Coast with 20 or 30 dogs, or an amateur owner with his pet on his lap, the goal of all exhibitors at the upcoming show will be the same—to win a Westminster ribbon.
February 14, 1955
But before the show is over and 1955's champions have been named, tempers will flare; angry accusations will be made and as hotly denied; there won't be enough room; there'll be a hundred complaints; the noise in the Garden's basement will be like bedlam, and upstairs in the judging rings it will be quiet enough to hear a pin drop. At the end of it all the top judge, Albert E. Van Court, of Los Angeles, will go before a crowd of 10,000 and with a flick of his finger pick the best dog in the show—the highest prestige award a dog can win in the U.S.
Few people realize that the sport of breeding and comparing purebred dogs is one of the oldest in the world. It was going strong long before Egypt's pyramids were built, and down through the ages it has managed to survive the rise and fall of many dynasties and empires. In the U.S. the sport had its beginning in the 1870s, primarily among the sporting gentry.
The first bench show was held in Hempstead, L.I., N.Y. in 1874. There was no authoritative pedigree stud book in those days and many of the dogs entered were anything but purebred. Records of these shows also indicate a propensity for chicanery among the exhibitors of the day and dishonesty on the part of the judges.
These conditions flourished to such a degree that in September of 1884 a group of gentlemen fanciers met in Philadelphia to create a national organization to rule the sport. The group they formed was the National Bench Show Association, later to be renamed the American Kennel Club. Its first act was to start a stud book in which pedigrees were registered and certified, and from that time on dog shows began to be honest—though there are still those of the fancy, as they call themselves, who stoutly maintain that complete honesty has never quite been achieved.
Today no dog show of any consequence can be held in this country without the blessing of the AKC, which is actually an association of 335 dues-paying regional and breed clubs. The AKC is the official arbiter of the whole dog show sport and watches closely to see that all of its 5,000 rules are strictly carried out. It licenses all the judges (about 2,300) and the professional handlers (about 1,000), and levies fines or suspends them for any proven infractions after a trial hearing. It is the AKC which publishes the standards of perfection for each breed, against which all dogs are judged. Each breed has its own standards and no two are the same. So far no dog has ever been found that met all the requirements of its breed.
Of the 22.5 million dogs in America about a third are purebred and it is these which make up the show-dog population. At present there are about 25,000 living dog champions in the U.S., 3,000 having been entered in the AKC. records during 1953. The AKC. divides purebred dogs into six major categories—sporting, nonsporting, hound, working, terrier and toy. It is under these same groupings that dogs are shown and judged.
Most popular breeds today, judged by numbers registered with the AKC, are 1) beagles, 2) boxers, 3) cocker spaniels, 4) dachshunds, 5) Chihuahuas.
Dogs compete against those of their own breed first. If they win, they then compete against the breed winners in the other group categories; and finally the group winners compete for the best-in-show award. For each win at a major show a dog is credited with a certain amount of points to which it keeps adding until it has a total of 15, which is championship status. When it reaches this ultimate (called "being finished" by the fancy) the dog is entitled to the prefix "Ch." on its name.
The cost of showing a dog can be little or a great deal. To take extreme examples, the owners of the champion boxer Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, Dr. and Mrs. Rafael Harris, of Santa Ana, Calif., reckon it has cost them about $30,000 to campaign their dog to 100 best-in-show wins. On the other hand, Mrs. Edythe Ellis, of Shady Side, Md., finished her champion Pug, EdyNorm's Mr. Biff, for a total cost of $19.
Whereas at one time it was considered a mark of social prestige to have at least one dog entered in the Westminster show each year, today's exhibitors are mostly people of modest means who own just a few dogs and run their kennels themselves. A large majority of the fancy, however, own only one dog, which they keep as a family pet.
The Westminster Kennel Club itself is something of a contradiction. It has no kennel (and hasn't had one for 50 years) and no clubhouse; it owns not one single dog, and it doesn't require its members to own or breed them. In fact, apart from its one dog show a year, the only other activity of the club is to meet for dinner once a month. The club today is primarily an exclusive group of New York businessmen who enjoy perpetuating a legacy of lofty ideals for the sake of America's second oldest consecutive sporting event (after the Kentucky Derby)—the Westminster Dog Show.
The Westminster's history, however, is rich in tradition. Formed in 1877 by a group of wealthy New Yorkers, the club opened large kennels, a pigeon shooting course and a live-in clubhouse at Babylon, L.I. The success of their first dog show in 1877 was such that the members dedicated themselves to making the show an annual event and the best in the nation—something the club has continued to achieve without interruption for the past 78 years.
The kennels and clubhouse in Babylon had to be closed down after pigeon shooting was abolished in N.Y. State, and the club took office space in Manhattan. Members continued to carry on the dog show tradition left by the founders. The present 90-odd members of the club are mostly bankers, lawyers and brokers. About 20 of these meet once a month for dinner, and the dog enthusiasts among them work on the dog show committees. Only about half of Westminster's members are dog show people. The club hires a professional superintendent to organize the annual dog show but makes up its own lists of judges.
Membership in the club is by invitation and is rarely offered. New members are added only to replace those who die.
The record books of Westminster's historic past, which are now kept in the club's three-room New York office on East 60th Street, shed an illuminating light on the early dog shows.
"If it is canine it is eligible" seems to have been the rule, considering the vicious and obscure beasts which somehow found their way into the judging rings. Not even four legs were required of the dogs. A brown two-year-old bitch called Nellie was entered in the miscellaneous class with a program note explaining that she had been born with only two legs. An Australian wild dog was entered in the first show but when the judges saw that its owner listed his address as Central Park Menagerie, they gave it a wide berth in fear of their lives. Dogs of royalty were a great attraction and two deerhounds called Dagmar and Oscar "bred by Her Majesty the Queen of England from the late Prince Consort's famous breed" were offered for sale at $100,000. A Siberian wolfhound bred by the czar of Russia was on sale at $10,000 although it was listed as "pedigree unknown." Prizes in those days were similarly lavish. They included such things as a "Gold and Silver Mounted Pearl Handled Revolver" and a "Russian Leather Silver Mounted Fly Book and One Gross of Assorted Flies."
Today the Westminster prizes are silver medals and bowls and cash prizes, as well as ribbons. Whatever changes the future may hold for this dog show one thing is certain—a win at Westminster will always remain the cherished ambition of all dog exhibitors.
HOW A DOG SHOW IS JUDGED
The most important figures at a dog show are the judges—and Westminster's panel of 46 experts (21 of them women) are the pick of the 2,300 licensed by the American Kennel Club. Heading this year's list is a Los Angeles investment counselor, Albert E. Van Court, who will judge the best-in-show event. A former breeder of dachshunds, Mr. Van Court has been a leading judge for the past 15 years.
His task at the show, after other judges have chosen breed winners and group winners, will be to find the dog which most nearly conforms to its own breed standards. These standards are a description of the physical and mental attributes which enable that kind of dog to perform the special functions for which it has been bred. In certain breeds, for instance, the coat must be weather resistant and the standard will emphasize the quality of the coat; in another breed, speed may be essential and the standard of this breed will emphasize the legs, feet and streamlined body. The judge scores each dog on a points system, giving so many points per attribute out of a possible hundred.
PERFECT DOG NEVER FOUND
But a dog must not only measure up to the physical standards of its breed; it must also have the proper character. A watchdog must be alert and courageous, a field dog responsive and obedient, a terrier audacious, a herd and sled dog poised and sagacious, and a toy, usually a replica of a larger breed, must possess the same characteristics plus a certain affectionate dependence.
Since no perfect dog has ever been found, the actual practice of judging varies somewhat from the theory. Instead of comparing each dog against the standard of its breed, the judge chooses one dog which he considers nearest to the standard, and then compares the others to this dog. Running his hands over the dog's body the judge checks its "type" (conformation) against its breed's standards and then, with a careful inspection of eyes, teeth, ears, etc., examines it for physical condition (soundness). The handler is then asked to gait the dog at a run so that the judge can see it in motion in the ring. At this point, ring presence and show personality enter into the adjudication. A show dog should be obedient, should display showmanship qualities and should move with smooth action. The dog scoring the highest number of points in both type and soundness, plus the rest, is the winning dog.
TO BE A HANDLER
Because improper handling in the show ring can ruin the chances of even the best dog, most owners hire professionals to do the job. About 1,000 professional handlers are licensed by the American Kennel Club, and their average fee is about $20. Some of the top handlers are under contract to certain owners who have first call on their services. Fees for contract services can run from $5,000 to $10,000.
The professional handler's job is to condition the dog for the show and then handle it during the judging. A good handler knows how to hide a dog's weak points and play up its strong points. He can straighten a crooked leg or make a too short neck a little longer just by clipping the dog's coat the right way.
During the judging it is common for handlers to use a number of ploys guaranteed to show off their dog to better advantage—or disparage that of the competition. Some of the ploys are: Vie for the best position and keep it; reset your dog every time the judge moves around so he sees only the dog's best side; pose your dog, seemingly inadvertently but actually on purpose, so that it obscures the judge's view of the better bitch next to it; "piano-play" the dog's strongest points—meaning fuss and run your hand over the dog's good points so the judge's eyes are drawn away from the bad.
Perhaps the biggest reason why owners hire handlers is because they themselves are too nervous to do the job.
KEEPING TROUBLE OUT OF DOG SHOWS IS HIS BUSINESS
The frightening task of bringing together under one roof at the same time 2,500 highly strung and priceless show dogs, plus their owners and handlers, is a job so nearly impossible that only one man in the country has for the past 27 years been allowed to do it. He is 72-year-old George Foley of Philadelphia, the professional superintendent of the Westminster show since 1928.
Normally a quiet-voiced little man with the kindly patience and demeanor of a Sunday School teacher, Foley's lifetime of bossing the nation's top dog shows has left him with the tenacity of a deaf bulldog, and if provoked, the fighting instincts of a great Dane.
DETECTIVES GUARD DOGS
Foley found out a long time ago that there was no such thing as a smoothly run dog show. A show's success can be judged only in how low the number of trouble-making incidents can be kept. His basic principle for running a good dog show is simple, if hard to carry out: make everybody obey the rules.
As head of the Foley Dog Show Organization, Inc., which handles 140 shows (indoor and out) a year and is the largest firm of its kind in the world, Foley tries to make the rules stick—and in doing so has become czar of the canine world and probably the most controversial personality in the business. Foley has learned to disregard this; he has work to do. Each year he packs up to 100,000 square feet of canvas, $250,000 worth of benching and ring equipment, 35 salaried hands and all the equipment, blue ribbons, catalogs and mechanical stake-drivers necessary for a dog show into five trailer trucks and sets out from his Philadelphia headquarters to set up and oversee the nation's top shows.
Depending upon size, he charges a fee of $500 $25,000 per show. His biggest headaches come at shows like the Westminster. Apart from the months of preparation, printing of the premium list and catalogs and handling of thousands of entries, Foley's team of hired help and staffers work around the clock, much like a circus crew, throughout the entire two-day event. To ensure safety for the purebred dogs benched overnight in the Garden, Foley has teams of Pinkerton detectives supplementing his own guards and officials on the doors. Every unused and locked exit door is fastened with a Foley seal (a paper sticker) to make sure nobody gets in or out except through the proper gates. While the show is on, Foley prowls around the rings and down in the basement snuffing out the scent of trouble like an old gun dog flushing quail.
Foley left a $24-a-week job as a fishing tackle salesman in 1902 to run his first dog show and today, with 5,000 shows behind him, he shudders at the thought of the things that can go wrong. In the heat of blue-ribbon competition some owners, with thousands of dollars and large chunks of their own vanity and ego invested in the dogs, will stop at nothing short of murder to win—and even that has been tried more than once. A prize Boston terrier owned by Frank Brumby, of Long Island, was fed ground glass and died before it could get into the ring and a best-in-show contender was once slashed with a razor.
In addition to attempts at murdering the competition, belladonna has been put into a dog's eyes to make them shine more winningly; badly marked dogs have been dyed; others have had spots painted on them with boot black; judges have been accused of favoritism and outright dishonesty, and at least one has been banished from the ring for having the smell of drink on his breath. Hardly a show goes by that Foley doesn't have to referee a quarrel, calm down upset losers and convince at least six people that the judge hasn't been fixed.
Exhibitors caught breaking any of the rules are reported to the AKC. for disciplinary action and possible banishment from the sport.
Looking back over his career Foley, who has never been bitten by a dog, still hasn't made up his mind which cause him the most trouble—people or dogs. Dog or man, he thinks it all depends on environment and education.
DOGS ARE A $500 MILLION INDUSTRY
According to a recent survey made by the Gaines Dog Research Center, there are now 22.5 million dogs in the U.S., of which about a third are purebred. Some 17 million families—about 40% of all American homes—own one or more dogs, with the South having the most. Catering to this enormous group of modern-day canines has created in this country an active industry with the highly respectable turnover of more than $500 million annually. Dog lovers last year, for example, bought nearly two billion pounds of prepared dog food at an estimated cost of $250 million.
Of the 17,000 veterinarians in America about 13,000 work with dogs and other small pets. There are 2,300 hospitals where dog ailments can be treated, and $50 million are spent yearly on dog remedies and veterinary services. Today, whether it likes it or not, the American dog is an emancipated creature with all the benefits of modern civilization, including such things as psychiatrists, dude ranches and even "college" educations at its disposal.
Two decades ago when they began making a dog food called Pard, Swift & Co. was afraid to put their name on the can. It would be like Tiffany's selling horse collars, they thought. Not until the dog food business was booming did the company finally allow their name on the cans—and then only in small print. Dog food has come a long way since then. Today it is accepted as being virtually as pure in content and preparation as similar foods for human consumption.
In catering to the tastes of humans who want to make people out of dogs, manufacturers have built up a fantastic $25 million-a-year business in doggy clothes, grooming aids and services.
As early as 1934, a sign of times to come in the dog business was revealed in the catalog of Abercrombie & Fitch which advertised "goggles for motoring dogs and a mustache cup dish for spaniels." Among the items of dog esoterica available today are maternity coats with let-out and move-back buttons, Scottish outfits, canine candy, a roto-romp exerciser for weight reducing and centrally heated dog houses. Thousands of dog beauty parlors give dogs bubble baths, permanent waves and manicures, and Poodles by Dana Inc., a New York firm, will dye dogs the color of their owner's costume.
WHAT WELL-DRESSED DOGS WEAR
Clothes for dogs have become a profitable fad and some of the world's top stylists have designed garments for them. Mr. John, of New York City, will make cocktail hats for dogs starting at $35. Most department stores and pet shops across the nation carry a variety of dog accessories. Macy's offers a mink collar coat ($19.98). Such items as sequin-studded collars trimmed with ermine tails, red terry cloth morning robes, pearl barrettes and imitation emerald earrings can be bought in many shops. Some stores, like Hammacher Schlemmer in New York City, specialize in dog items like polo coats for the country and dog boots. One of its best selling items today is a dog perfume named Kennel #9 (1 oz. $3).
The Dog's Own Shop, in New York's Greenwich Village, offers for dogs a removable chest protector, leather shoes, and four-legged white bath pajamas. A Texan was so pleased with some silver hair clips which Linz Bros., "Jewelists," of Dallas made for his poodle, that he ordered a $250 diamond-studded white-gold set for Sundays.
For city dog owners there are now canine walkers and dog sitters. For dogs wishing to get away from it all there are places like the Dog Bath Club in Manhattan (three large running tracks, a sun deck and outdoor swimming pool), the Valley Country Club for Pets on Long Island, and the Dude Ranch for Dogs at Big Bear Lake, Calif. If the problems run deeper, Clarence E. Harbison, of Darien, Conn., a dog psychologist who has treated hundreds of neurotic pets, can be called in. For purposes of higher education there is John Behan's New England Canine College, which takes only resident "students" and specializes in cases with personality problems. Dogs afraid of traffic undergo orientation courses listening to traffic noises on records.
At the Canine University in New York dogs are taught to live with humans, while a school for dogs in Chicago goes a step further and also offers courses teaching humans how to live with dogs.
In Hartsdale, N.Y. more than 25,-000 dogs rest in peace among the maple groves in America's biggest cemetery for pets. Some dogs interred here have had elaborate funerals with lying-in-state periods of several days and five lie in a $25,000 mausoleum.
At man's side since the Paleolithic period, dogs are today increasing in population four times faster than humans, but experts foresee no immediate problems—not as long as the public continues to kill pets with kindness.
[This article contains complex diagrams. Please see hard copy or pdf.]
THIS CHART SHOWS THE FAMILY TREE OF 119 DIFFERENT BREEDS OF DOGS
When man first became interested in the breeding of dogs, it was generally thought that the wolf was the common ancestor of all canines. The best scientific evidence available, however, now indicates it was a small creature much like the civet cat, which was called Tomarctus and lived 15 million years ago. Tomarctus is so pictured on this chart, and the black lines branching out from him lead to the four earliest breeds of dogs, all wild and all now extinct. From these developed, before 6000 B.C., the four general groups of modern domestic dogs. The blue lines at the left of the chart show how herd dogs descend from Canis familiaris metris-optimae. The group to the right, joined by ochre lines, shows how closely related the large hunting dogs are to the small toy dogs. The red lines show that hounds and terriers fall into one group. The gray lines at far right connect the guard dogs. The dotted lines indicate important breed crossings among the 119 dogs shown here. The origin of some breeds, however, is a mystery, particularly that of the Puli, which has baffled experts for centuries.
GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG
WELSH PEMBROKE CORGI
ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL
GERMAN SHORT-HAIRED POINTE
ST. HUBERT HOUND*
OLD ENGLISH ROUGH TERRIER*
WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER
DANOIE DINMONT TERRIER
SMOOTH-HAIRED FOX TERRIER
KERRY BLUE TERRIER
CANIS FAMILIARIS METRIS OPTIMAE*
CANIS FAMILIARIS INTERMEDIUS*
CANIS FAMILIARIS LEINER*
LHASA APSO (TERRIER)
EGYPTIAN HOUSE DOG:
BORZOI OR RUSSIAN WOLFHOUND
IRISH WATER SPANIEL
BREEDS WHICH ARE NOW EXTINCT
CANIS FAMILIARIS INOSTRANZEWI*
DOGUE DE BORDEAUX*
BOUVIER DES FLANDRES
CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER
WHITE ENGLISH TERRIER*
BULL AND TERRIER*
[PULI]Just where the Puli came from, nobody knows. Based on several experts' opinion, SI places it under the Kuvasz, a Hungarian sheepdog.
FOLDOUT-DO NOT CUT
Seven pages in color: portraits of 18 show dog champions and a genealogy chart painted for SI by Arthur Singer, tracing origin of 119 breeds
Ch. Giralda's King Kole, owned by Mrs. M. Hartley Dodge of Madison, N.J., took best-in-breed and best-of-hound group at Westchester show. In spite of formidable appearance, bloodhounds are usually placid and affectionate by nature.
Ch. Merrymont Old Andy of Iradell was top dog of his breed at the Westchester show and will aim at higher honors next week at the Westminster in Madison Square Garden. He is owned by Mrs. N. Clarkson Earl Jr. of Ridgefield, Conn.
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG
Ch. Shepton Blushing Maid was a stand-in for the lead dog in King of Hearts on Broadway as well as being top winning show dog. Best of her breed at Westchester show, she is owned by Louise Acheson of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
Ch. Pride of Lyn-Mar Acres, owned by John T. Briel of Bordentown, N.J., is one of the best bassets in the country. A popular breed, they have the coloring of a foxhound, the head of a bloodhound and the legs of a dachshund.
Ch. Silver Spray of Wychwood won best-of-breed at the Westchester show and has been entered in the Westminster event by owner, Bernice B. Ashdown of Manhasset, N.Y. Samoyeds, most glamorous of all working dogs, come from Siberia.
Ch. Star Twilight of Clu-Mor is all-time champion of his breed and won best-toy ribbon at the last Westminster show. Owned by Mrs. L. S. Gordon Jr. and Janet Bennett of Glenview, Ill., he will be competing again this year.
Ch. Handful's Bantam, owned by Gene Simmonds of Joppa, Md., was lead dog in the best team at last Westminster show and will be out to win the honor again. The miniatures of this breed are the most popular in the U.S.
Ch. Salisbury's Pride O'Possession carried off the best-of-winners award at 1954 Westminster and went best-of-breed at Westchester in September. This bitch is the 33rd champion owned by Mrs. R. J. Webber of Newton Centre, Mass.
Ch. Alfonco von der Goldenen Kette is an import from Germany and is owned by Pennyworth Clairedale Kennels of Hampton Bays, L.I. He reached championship status in only seven shows and will be seen at Westminster next week.
Ch. Little Bear's James Thurber, owned by R. E. Dowling Realty of New York, is ranking dog of his breed today. Both his mother and father were Westminster winners and at Westchester show he was named best of Newfoundland breed.
COCKER SPANIEL (ASCOB)
Ch. Carmor's Rise and Shine became top dog in 1954 after winning best-in-show at Westminster. His owner, Mrs. Carl E. Morgan of High Point, N.C., has said that Rise and Shine will not defend his title at next week's show.
Ch. Hamilton Samada is owned by Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Cutting of Gladstone, N.J. and is descended from the special breed of dogs given by the Dalai Lama of Tibet as good luck omens to imperial families of China in 1583 during Manchu Dynasty.
Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest won the top event at the Westminster show in 1951 and made history in 1954 by winning his 100th best-in-show award—the highest total so far. Bang Away is owned by Dr. and Mrs. Rafael Harris of Santa Ana, Calif.
Ch. Taejon of Crown Crest, best hound at last year's show, will compete again at Westminster next week. A superb specimen of a breed which dates back to 3000 B.C., this champion is owned by Kay Finch of Corona Del Mar, Calif.
Ch. Rachmaninoff, bred and owned by Katherine E. and Weldon J. McCluskey of Patchogue, N.Y., won best-of-breed at the Westchester show in September. Developed in its native land for hunting wolves, breed is often called Russian wolfhound.
Ch. Edgerstoune Troubadour was named best dog at the Westchester show, the nation's biggest before Westminster. Troubadour's owners, Dr. and Mrs. W. Stewart Carter of Buechel, Ky., are considering entering him in big event.
Ch. Ahtram Golden Chance was best of his breed at the Westchester show and will probably compete against other terriers at Westminster next week. This breed is a good guard dog as well as being an old favorite in the hunting field.
Kippax Fearnought, owned by Dr. J. A. Saylor of Long Beach, Calif., is an import from England and is one of the best bulldogs seen in this country for many years. A finalist at the last Westminster show, Kippax is entered again this year.